The woman, in her late 40s, knew she wanted to change the look of her bedroom, but wasn’t sure where to start. Jane O’Donoghue, co-owner of the Ellicott City bedding boutique Urban Threads, asked the customer to describe her taste. “I like the way I dress,” the woman told her, gesturing to her tailored white blouse with a Peter-Pan collar, a bright scarf draped around her neck, and the boutique jeans that revealed a hint of belly. It was enough information for O’Donoghue, an interior designer accustomed to putting together exquisitely decorated rooms with less information to go on than that. “Classic,” recalls O’Donoghue, describing the tastes of the customer. “Solid colors with a splash of color.” O’Donoghue put together an ensemble for her in a few minutes, the customer loved it, and she made the sale.
While good old customer service may seem like an obvious strategy, what sets Urban Threads apart from many retailers in the home-accessories business is that the owners have the expertise to take the relationship with the customer one step further.
“When you get assistance in the store, you’re getting professional design advice as well as product information,” says co-owner Ann McDaniels, also an interior designer.
When the business partners aren’t in the shop, they work with clients through their respective firms. (O’Donoghue’s is JOD Interior Design; McDaniels, with partner Carol Christens-Barry, owns Christen-Daniels Interiors.)
McDaniels says Urban Threads was born of her frustration working on the less opulent rooms in clients’ homes. “When we were doing a second bedroom or a beach house . . . I kept thinking to myself, ‘If only I had a store, I could find what I wanted.’” So she and O’Donoghue opened the store in August 2011.
Urban Threads’ inventory is limited to drapery panels and bedding, along with a handful of shower curtains and upholstered headboards by special order. What’s next? “Our next goal is to sell online,” says McDaniels. And after that? “We want to design our own line of bedding and sell it everywhere,” she says.